Almost two weeks into our three week trip through Indonesia, and our little family has been having an amazing time lounging on the beach in Kuta, playing with monkeys in Ubud, watching dancing in Yogyakarta, and riding trains through Java. I’ve been to Indonesia many times before, but this is only my second time traveling with kids in Indonesia. I was a bit apprehensive of what my kids would think of Indonesia, but so far, they seem to be loving every minute of it. Despite the occasional melt down, battles with mosquitoes, and struggling with jet lag early on during the trip, our little vacation has actually been quite enjoyable.
Indonesia may not seem like the typical family vacation destination. Many families are quite reluctant to take their kids to a developing country due to safety concerns, health concerns, or a general fear of the unknown. These are legitimate concerns, but I have found that Indonesia is actually an excellent place to take kids. With its abundance of outdoor, historical, and cultural activities, there are so many things that families can take in on a visit to Indonesia.
For first time travelers to Indonesia, though, there are a few things to keep in mind which I think would make the visit a bit easier and less stressful. Below is a list of six things you should know about traveling with kids in Indonesia.
You don’t have to only use taxis
On my past trips to Indonesia, I often relied on taxis to get me from place to place. I’m realizing on this trip, though, that there are plenty of other ways to get around with kids in Indonesia. So far, our favorite mode of transportation was the becak in Yogyakarta (Indonesia’s version of a pedicab). There was something fun about all of us piling into the seat of the becak and coasting through Yogya’s streets with the wind blowing through our hair. This thinking outside of the box when it comes to transportation also extends to longer distances. Rather than dealing with a plane, a fun (and cheap) way to travel through Indonesia is by train. For less than $100, we were able to buy four Executive class tickets for train travel between Yogyakarta and Jakarta.
Homestays are a great way to experience Indonesia as a family
These are Indonesia’s version of a bed and breakfast, and usually consist of a simply furnished room and an equally simple bathroom. But they’re a perfect and inexpensive accommodation option for families traveling on a budget. The homestay we stayed at in Yogyakarta had a family room with a king size bed, a twin bed, and a futon, so it was just the perfect size for our family. We were served a home cooked breakfast every morning, and in the afternoon, we had a comfy place to spend some down time before dinner.
Be open to little adventures
We love going off the beaten path, and always try to do mini adventures with our kids. One afternoon while exploring Yogyakarta, we decided to walk to Taman Sari (the Water Palace) from the Kraton rather than take a becak or a taxi. The route we followed, thanks to directions given to us by people we talked to on the street, had us walk through a kampung, which is somewhat like a mini village in the middle of the city. In all my visits to Indonesia, I had never really had a chance to see what a kampung was like. It was nice to walk through the narrow lanes of the kampung and catch a glimpse of local life. The houses are small, and decidedly middle to lower income homes, but they looked well kept and clean. The kids liked passing through the kampung too, mainly because some of the residents had cute little gardens, and even had pets like bunnies or chickens.
Be aware, but don’t be scared
In general, Indonesia is a safe place, but there are still some dangers that abound for little kids in Indonesia. When walking in the street, make sure your kids are safely on the side of the road, as motorcycles tend to zoom wherever they see fit. In public areas, make sure to keep your kids close by so they don’t get lost. And be wary of letting them touch animals in case they may have rabies. With that said, don’t be afraid to let them do a bit of exploration and experimentation. The fun part about travel is being able to do things that you may not necessarily get to do back home.
Take it slow and leave room for down time
Indonesia is a hot place, so it’s important to make sure your kids in Indonesia don’t get overheated or overtired. Many of the tours offered in the tourist areas are geared towards adults, and tend to pack many activities into one day. When doing tours with kids, it’s best to choose a half day one, so the kids have part of the day to rest. Better yet, try exploring places on your own so that you can go at your own pace.
Indonesians adore little kids
The thing I’ve noticed the most about traveling with kids in Indonesia is that Indonesians love kids. Whether we were walking around touristy areas like Kuta, or eating at a random restaurant, people were always coming up to our kids and playing with them. For parents who are used to the conservativeness of American culture, this may seem a little off-putting at first, but it’s better to just embrace it. There is definitely a positive aspect to all this adoration towards little kids. You’ll find that compared to the United States, people are a little more forgiving of the melt downs and tantrums that inevitably occur during travel.
Now that we’re approaching the last third of our trip, it’s been great to look back and see how our kids are experiencing Indonesia. I know this trip may not stick in their memory since they are both so young, but something tells me it will still be influential in their lives. At the very least, I think it will bring us closer as a family. Traveling with kids in Indonesia has been a wonderful bonding experience.
Essentially, that is why we travel – to experience the world together as a family. All the months of planning and saving money for this trip have been worth it. I wouldn’t trade these three weeks with my family for anything.
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